|Another From Customers_Suck: Train-Wreck Parenting Or...?
||[Apr. 3rd, 2006|12:56 pm]
Free Range Moms - The Surreal Side Of Parenting
Refreshed to see someone who was keeping a close eye on their kids in the mall, I smiled and said that my mother used to always say the same thing to me.|
"Oh, yes," she replied. "There are some real sickos out there. I've always told my kids that if they run off, someone will kidnap them and murder them, but first they will do horrible things to them. I've showed my son pictures of murder victims' bodies so that he knows what can happen to him."
I'm curious how other parents handle it - how do you go about warning them and teaching them safety without making them paranoid and afraid? Or is it better to be paranoid and afraid than chopped up and dead (as one friend of mine insists?) How much is too much information?
Have you ever had an incident, such as calling a Code Adam or something similar? I have, twice. Once in Wal-Mart he was playing hide-n-seek in the clothes racks and we found him just as the hand was on the switch to lock the entire place down, and once at the circus when he was four and wandered off to go to the bathroom by himself when Daddy wasn't moving fast enough through the crowd. That one was festive - security guards scrambling every which way, and the entire departing civic center crowd suddenly funnelled through one set of doors past a cop holding a snapshot I'd jerked out of my wallet while I stood there pulling out my hair and calmly plotting the quickest, most efficient way to kill myself if they found him in five separate trash cans.
Then there was the time when he was three when he decided to walk to grandmas by himself without telling anyone. I don't even want to talk about that one. I still have nightmares.
OK, I guess what I'm getting at is that I can completely understand the impulse towards overkill on the subject, and while showing a small child photos of mangled dead bodies is going too far, who knows whether the woman was just nuts or whether she was driven to desperation trying to protect a chronically wandering child? Mine is pretty good about it, and thank the gods the incidents I've described were pretty much the only serious ones. We had to break the public hide-n-seek habit when he was a toddler, and formulating and enforcing a Crowded-Amusement-Park policy was a real challenge, but overall we've been extremely fortunate. I can only imagine what it would be like to deal with a child who wasn't more or less cooperating with the effort to make sure he lives to see puberty.
I handled this with my extremely gregarious child by telling him that while most people were nice, there were a few people out there who are sick in their minds or just bad people, who might hurt children if they get a chance. I told him that it's rare and nothing to worry about, but every so often kids do get kidnapped by bad people and hurt badly or even killed, and that's why he has to learn to be safe and to stay close where I can protect him until he's old enough to know how to protect himself. That's also why he has to stay where I (or the designated adult he's supposed to be with) always know where he is. I also let him know that for his own safety, this was one area where no excuses would be acceptable. No "I was just playing," no "I played a joke on mommy!" This is an ironclad rule and breaking it will result in truly memorable punishment.
We started telling him a simplified version of this as soon as he was old enough to understand words, and before that I actually used one of those kiddie leashes (and got screamed at for a child abuser by some random old lady, but that's another story.)
What are your thoughts?